CHENANGO COUNTY – Social media sites were taken over nationwide by the “#WeSeeYou” campaign on Friday, May 15, 2015, and Chenango County was no exception.
The #WeSeeYou campaign was born from a blog written by Elizabeth Shiftwell of Texas, titled “Dear Officer, I See You.” Shiftwell and Mille McClean formed the website and Facebook page titled “Humanizing the Badge” in February, 2015.
“Our goal was to give a positive atmosphere where police officers and their families could go for uplifting support and encouragement,” said Shiftwell.
The blog Shiftwell wrote can be found online at humanizingthebadge.com/2014/12/28/dear-officer-i-see-you/.
Shiftwell said she wrote the piece after NYPD officers Ramos and Lui were killed. “It was shared and viewed more than one million times,” she said. “That’s when we decided to cut a video with the blog and read over it. It went viral in a matter of seconds.”
Shiftwell said that as of Sunday, it has been viewed several million times on various platforms.
“That’s when we knew we had an audience that we could encourage to volunteer with us,” Shiftwell said. “That’s how the #WeSeeYou campaign was born.”
According to Shiftwell, the premise of the campaign was simple: Humanizing the Badge asks supporters to post a photo of them holding a #WeSeeYou sign to show members of law enforcement they stand behind them and appreciate their efforts.
Norwich Police Officer Ryan Legacy noticed the support from residents of Chenango County. “This has spread pretty rapid and it's due to so many of our brother and sister Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) being intentionally killed all around the world, and hitting our home state NYPD. It not only affects our hearts but our families because it can happen here at any time. There has been a great support of us LEOs to keep chaos out and seeing it is a great feeling,” said Legacy. “I think people oversee the things we sacrifice every day and always look at the bad instead of the good we do.”
Legacy added that he has contacted an NYPD detective who has made “BlueLivesMatter” a “huge part of the world.”
Said Legacy, “It happened after the two NYPD officers were killed not long ago. In support, they have raised money for families of officers killed in the line of duty for scholarships and other great things. He has a Facebook page and they sell shirts and bracelets to support us. I made a huge purchase of bracelets back months ago and gave them to people in the community that support us and to my coworkers. It's a great way to show support and I haven't taken it off since I got it.”
“I think we are hurting. Our officers are hurting, our families are hurting, and our nation is hurting. We can't get national media attention by burning down our cities and making decisions that contradict a proclamation of wanting change,” said Shiftwell. “We chose to give everyone a platform to use their voices in unity over social media. It spread rapidly because people wanted to speak up and because our law enforcement communities absolutely needed it. It's been an incredibly trying year.”
Legacy’s statements fall in line with Shiftwell calling the past year ‘trying.’
Said Legacy, “Something else to look into is the line of duty deaths we have had within a hundred mile radius. Within six months of being hired in the city of Norwich, I went to two funerals for officers that were killed in the line of duty. Back where I am from, I've attended three police funerals for local police officers: Joseph Corr who was shot by a bank robbery suspect in New Hartford on February 27, 2006; Thomas Lindsey who was shot in the back of the head on a traffic stop in the City of Utica on April 12, 2007; and the third one was just very recent, June 7, 2011 in my hometown of Knoxboro NY, Kurt B. Wyman of the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office who was shot in the neck after a stand off. People say this cannot happen around here, it is proven that it can ... It’s sickening to lose family members of our brotherhood.”
When asked about whether or not she was surprised that the campaign made it to a smaller community such as Chenango County, Shiftwell said, “I think it says that it did what it was suppose to do. You don't have to live in a bigger city to feel the negative effects of the world. We absolutely wanted to reach every cop out there. I don't think we did, but we are just getting warmed up.”
Tiffany Lavin participated in the social media event by sharing a photo of her daughter holding the sign. Said Lavin, “My husband is a Sergeant for Endicott Police for the past 10 years or so. He worked for the Chenango County Sheriff’s prior to that. He has 20-plus years on the job.”
Another supporter and LEO family member, Brittany Head, said, “The importance of this for not only myself but my siblings as well, was never knowing if our father would come home that night or not. Every morning he left, we always knew there was a chance that would be our last good bye, our last I love you and our last hug. I joined the campaign to shows these officers that they are appreciated, they do matter and we are thankful.”
Head said that her father is a retired BCI Senior Investigator, her uncle and his son are officers in Virginia, and her best friend who she said she considers a brother is Max Loiselle, a local deputy.
“No one truly understands what they are going through day in and day out,” said Head. “Who they had encountered before you and how they truly are there to protect and serve no matter who they come in contact with. Not all officers are corrupt or bad. They matter, they have families to go home to and badge or no badge, they are people too.”
The newest hire for the Norwich Police Department, Alicia Woodard, said, “The #WeSeeYou Campaign is the best support shown to law enforcement officers. The campaign has gone viral over the last few weeks. It's a very moving display of love and support.”
Shiftwell said there were participants from Ireland, Scotland, Portugal, Australia, Canada, Europe, and military personnel asking how they could get involved with the campaign.
“It was one of the most moving experiences we've ever had,” said Shiftwell. “I was honored and inspired by the bravery of other people. When you have men and women out there serving and protecting their communities nightly, the least we can do is raise our united voices.”
Shiftwell added that this campaign and Humanizing the Badge in general would not be as fluid without the team they have.
“We are a couple of police wives, a couple of cops, and a couple of civilians. We like to keep that dynamic because it brings a valuable difference in perspective. We look forward to moving on with our 501c3 non-profit that is dedicated to raising money for first responder families who need extended pediatric care for their children. We know we can make a difference and that's what we intend to do,” said Shiftwell.
For further information on the #WeSeeYou Campaign or Humanizing the Badge, search on Facebook or visit humanizingthebadge.com.